Post Summary: Kirkham Hot Springs In Idaho, directions, and photo inspiration.
This post was updated in October, 2022
Did you know that Idaho is 67% public land?
That’s 35 million acres of the 53 million-acre state! With over 20 million of those acres consisting of national forest areas, it’s guaranteed to keep you busy exploring for a long, long time.
One thing Berty and I love about the Gem State is the sheer amount of Idaho hot springs available to experience!
Kirkham Hot Springs is easily one of the most popular pools to visit, and a can’t miss spot when planning an Idaho road trip itinerary.
In this post, we’re here to share with the ultimate guide to Kirkham Hot Springs. We’re sharing what you can expect on your own trip out to this slice of beautiful Idaho paradise!
If this is your first time here on the blog, one thing to know about Berty and I is that we LOVE finding new Idaho hot springs!
We have a lot more posts about hot springs and we’re excited to share them with you! You can find more like Kirkham Hot Springs at these posts:
- 15 Incredible Idaho Hot Springs You Need To Experience
- 11 Unique Facts About Natural Hot Springs
- The Springs Idaho Mountain Resort
- Burgdorf Hot Springs Near McCall, Idaho
- Bonneville Hot Springs
- Rocky Canyon Hot Springs
- Sunbeam Hot Springs
- Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
- Pine Flats Hot Springs
- Boat Box Hot Springs
- Kirkham Hot Springs Facts At-A-Glance
- How To Get To Kirkham Hot Springs
- Best Time To Visit Kirkham Hot Springs
- What To Pack
- Where To Stay Near Kirkham Hot Springs
- Pool Descriptions at Kirkham Hot Springs
- Visiting in The Winter
- Visiting in The Summer
- 13 Activities To Do Near Kirkham Hot Springs
- Kirkham Hot Springs FAQs
- More Hot Springs to Explore
Kirkham Hot Springs Facts At-A-Glance
- Location: Lowman, Idaho off Highway 21 (Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route)
- Nudity? No. Bathing suits are required, it’s a family-friendly spot.
- Kirkham Hot Spring Price: $5.00 day use fee per vehicle (bring cash)
- Opening Hours: Open from sunrise to sunset
- Directions: See below for directions from nearby towns
- Kirkham Hot Spring Temperature: The source is 120 F, cools down to between 95 and 110
- Camping at Kirkham: There used to be a campground on-site, but it’s now permanently CLOSED. Keep scrolling for more camping nearby Kirkham Hot Springs.
- Bathrooms? Vault toilets available. Notoriously not the most clean- bring extra TP.
- Dog-Friendly? Pets are welcome on-leash. Keep them away from hot pools and run-off areas.
How To Get To Kirkham Hot Springs
Kirkham Hot Springs is located near Lowman, Idaho within the Boise National Forest. It sits at 4,000 elevation, deep in the mountains surrounded by gorgeous peaks and wooded areas.
Like all good Idaho hot springs, the journey requires a bit of a drive. No matter where you’re coming from, make sure to fill up your gas tank. Here are some directions to Kirkham hot Springs from nearby towns:
From Boise, Idaho
Drive north on Highway 20 through Idaho City. (You can stop by the The Springs for another hot springs experience!) The drive is about 1 hour and 45 minutes. You should be able to see the steam from the road, especially in the winter. The directions via Google Maps are accurate!
From McCall, Idaho
From McCall, travel south of Highway 55. Turn left onto the Banks Lowman Highway (County Highway 17) and drive through Lowman to find the hot springs. Along the way you’ll pass Trail Creek, Rocky Canyon, and Pine Flats hot springs. The drive will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
From Stanley, Idaho
Stanley, Idaho is a hub for even more magical hot springs in Idaho! If you’re coming from this adventurous mountain town, drive west on Highway 21 for 1 hour. Along the way, you’ll pass Bonneville hot springs.
What To Expect Arriving At Kirkham Hot Springs
When you arrive, you’ll see parking along the highway. This is where you park your car. Pay the day use fee, and enter through the gate and follow the path towards the river to find the collection of hot springs.
The gate will likely be closed during winter, that’s okay! You can still walk through the gate, unless there are noticed posted otherwise.
Getting to the soaking pools required a very short walk (5 minutes). You can look over the pools and river on a wooded lookout, and follow the wooden stairs down the pools. It’s EXTREMELY slippery so watch your step!
Best Time To Visit Kirkham Hot Springs
Kirkham Hot Springs can be enjoyed all year long! You can have a VERY different experience at the pools depending on which time of year you visit. Here’s a general idea of what you can expect:
Winter: Winter is a magical time to visit, when the pools are steamy and the landscape is blanketed with snow! However, poor road conditions may make this place inaccessible at times. Save Idaho 511 on your phone to check road conditions, and DO NOT drive in a blizzard!
Spring: Spring is kind of a gamble. You’ll have to watch the road conditions closely to arrive safely, but if you can reach the pools you’ll likely experience the fewest crowds of the year. Expect to stay in town or at a cabin – campgrounds are not open until Memorial Day.
Summer: This is the busiest time to visit, but still fun! Expect crowds, but you’ll have the easiest time driving to the hot springs, and campgrounds nearby are open.
Fall: Our personal favorite time to visit. This is when the roads are clear and safe. The mornings and evenings are chilly, which makes the pools extra cozy.
What To Pack
It’s important to know what to pack for a hot springs trip, so you are prepared! Here are some things you should bring to Kirkham Hot Springs:
A Reusable Water Bottle: We like to pack something like a Hydroflask that keeps water icy cold. It’s important, especially to prevent overheating! >>Get our favorite size here!
Swimsuit: Many Idaho hot springs are clothing optional, but this one…not so much. Kirkham Hot Springs not only gets more traffic than most, but it’s a family-friendly place. Plus, all soakers are completely visible from the highway!
Towel: You’ll want that close by to wrap yourself in – especially if it’s cold outside! We absolutely love this inexpensive quick dry one by REI. >>Buy it here!
Dry Bag: We constantly have things like our camera, phone, gloves, hat, and more strewn out around! Keep them all safe (and dry!) in a dry bag so you can easily tote your things around from pool to pool. >>Buy these Sea to Summit one here!
Where To Stay Near Kirkham Hot Springs
Lucky for you, there’s an an abundance of places to stay near Kirkham Hot Springs!
It can look different depending on what time of year you visit. Here’s a clear breakdown:
Places to Stay Near Kirkham Hot Springs In Winter, Spring, and Fall
Campgrounds are closed until Memorial Day, so if you visit in the off-season you’ll need to book a vacation cabin, a yurt, or a hotel.
Vacation Homes and Cabins: If you want to be close by, rent this adorable upstairs apartment (30 minutes away) in the mountain town of Garden Valley. It’s perfect for couples, has a hot tub, and it pet-friendly too! >> Rent the cabin here.
Need a little more room? This cabin sleeps 8 (perfect for groups or families), has a hot tub, is pet-friendly, AND located in the same town of Garden Valley. It’s the closest town to Kirkham! >> Book the Peaceful Garden Valley Cabin here.
Hotels: Staying in Boise provides modern comforts and amenities after a glorious outdoor soak. We LOVE the Modern Hotel because of its beautiful design, and on-site bar and restaurant. Take epic day trips from Boise here!
You can also book a hotel in Stanley nearby. The Mountain Village Lodge is one of the most popular places to book in town, plus it has access to two other unique hot springs!
Places to Stay Near Kirkham Hot Springs In Summer
In the summer, tons of campground are open near Kirkham Hot Springs! While the campground that’s been on-site (Kirkham Camground) is no longer in use, there are other places to stay nearby.
In addition to all the accommodations listed above, here are some of our favorite campgrounds nearby:
- Helende Campground
- Pine Flats Campground (has hot springs)
- Bonneville Campground (has hot springs)
- Plus tons of free sites. (Read our guide to finding free camping here!)
Interested in free camping? We use The Dyrt to find free camping all over the US! Use it offline for easy browsing (without cell service!) and save tons of money on the road. Try it here for 30 days free!
Pool Descriptions at Kirkham Hot Springs
So what are the pools like at Kirkham Hot Springs? Here’s what you can expect to see:
Kirkham Hot Springs sits on the edge of the South Fork of the Payette River. There are around 10 separate pools all of varying temperate and size to fit anyone’s preference.
This place is very popular on weekends but there is a lot of room to spread out if you want a quiet soak. If you visit on a busy day, remember to follow these etiquette tips for hot springs, so that you and others can enjoy and respect one another’s experiences!
One of the best things to do is soak in the geothermal pools, which are very relaxing! It’s like of like soaking in a hot tub when it’s snowing outside. It feels magical!
The Hot Spring Shower
One unique feature at Kirkham Hot Springs is the geothermal shower!
It’s basically a big row of steaming waterfalls, all cascading off the cliff. This natural outdoor shower will feel extra nice in cold weather because the water temperatures stay around 95-100 degrees.
The Steamy Hillside
Berty and I also really enjoyed the area right before we took the stairs down into the hot springs.
Hot water flowed down the hillside and created an awesome steam effect with a beautiful snowy mountain backdrop.
We spent a lot of time taking photos here as well! Be careful where you step, because this area is EXTREMELY hot and extremely slippery!
Visiting in The Winter
Visiting Kirkham Hot Springs in winter can be a magical time.
However, driving conditions, weather, and safety are all important factors to consider when planning a trip. Here are some things to think about:
Check The Road Conditions
The Banks Lowman Highway and the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Drive both have mountain passes to cross. They are maintained throughout the winter, but can close unexpectedly in a blizzard.
Save the Idaho 511 website or app for easy access. This will give you the most updated road closure information so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Rent a 4-Wheel Drive Vehicle
If you’re flying in from Boise, you’ll need to rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The roads are incredibly windy, which can be exacerbated by snow and ice.
We like to book with RentalCars.com because they always have a wide selection of cars available for our dates.
Visiting in The Summer
Visiting Kirkham Hot Springs in the summer is easily the most popular time of year. The roads are open and clear, camping in abundant, and many people are taking road trips and adventures!
Expect crowds, especially on the weekends! Here’s what to consider when planning a summer trip:
Avoid Overheating and Sun Exposure
Kirkham hot springs weather in summer can be hot and clear. The high elevation makes the sun especially strong so it’s important to protect yourself from the elements!
Bring an ice-cold water bottle and continually hydrate, even in the pools. (The hot water can actually dehydrate you!)
We don’t recommend putting sunscreen on to sit in the pools, because the formula can leech into the water. Instead, wear a swim shirt with UPF 50+ protection. Also, bring a hat!
If you get too hot soaking in the pools, the Payette River is just nearby, so you can jump in and cool off!
13 Activities To Do Near Kirkham Hot Springs
Ready to explore more things to do in Idaho?
We’ve listed some of our favorite places below as some suggestions on things to do near Kirkham Hot Springs:
1. Hiking Trails Near Kirkham Hot Springs
If you love hiking like us, there are plenty of fun trails to explore in the area! Nearby trails include Kirkham Ridge Trail, Crooked River trail, Station Creek Trail, Bonneville Hot Springs trail, and Fishhook Creek Trail in the Sawtooth Mountains.
For a little bit more of a challenge, try planning an all-day adventure to climb Pilot Peak (all season), or Archie Mountain. There is easy access to Archie Mountain via a 1-mile trail to the top, and you can reward yourself with Kirkham dip at the end!
2. Pine Flats Hot Springs
The distance between Kirkham and Pine Flats hot springs is only 20 minutes via car, which makes it another really great pool to visit on your trip! There is a parking lot here with a $5.00 day use fee. From the lot, walk 1/4 mile until you reach the pools on the hillside.
Walk to the end, where you’ll find an enormous waterfall dropping right into a pool!
3. Goldbug Hot Springs
These pools are tucked away in the mountains near the Salmon-Challis National Forest, but totally worth the trek to getting there.
Camping is free along the route (just make sure to stay at least 500 feet away from the pools!) so you can enjoy Goldbug at sunrise AND sunset!
4. McCall, Idaho
Situated on the southern part of the Payette Lake, McCall is a perfect outdoor escape for all seasons.
In the summer you can grab your kayak and float on the lake, and in the winter you can get on your skis and spend the day at the nearby Brundage Mountain.
Read The Post: Awesome Things To Do In McCall, Idaho During Winter
5. Burgdorf Hot Springs
Burgdorf Hot Springs is the perfect combination of natural hot springs and convenience!
This rustic community of cabins deep in the Idaho backcountry welcomes visitors year-round for a relaxing soak in their geothermal pools.
From scorching hot small pools to a perfectly warmed large pool, this rustic Idaho resort is the perfect winter getaway.
Read More: What To Expect at Burgdorf Hot Springs
6. Boise, Idaho
The capital of Idaho has a booming culture of good food, good beer, and tons of activities to do!
In the summer you can float the Snake River right through town, drive up the Payette River to go whitewater rafting, or even see a Shakespeare play on a beautiful outdoor stage. You will be pleasantly surprised by Boise!
Read The Post: 23 Epic Things To Do In Boise, Idaho.
7. Stanley, Idaho (Sawtooth National Forest)
This darling little mountain town has a population of only 70 people, but we think they are some of the luckiest 70 people in the world!
Surrounded by the gorgeous Sawtooth mountains, this place boasts round the clock mountain views, traditional cabin getaways, and lots of activities on Redfish Lake.
We recently went there in the winter and found a few hot springs to explore!
Read The Post: A Winter Escape In Stanley, Idaho
8. Whitewater Raft on the Payette River
Rafting on the Payette River and Snake River are one of the coolest things to do in Idaho during summer!
Cascade Raft and Kayak host summer tours all season long. It’s a great spot for beginners to get their feet wet (literally!) into the world of whitewater rafting!
9. Cross Country Skiing at Whoop-Um-Up Park N’ Ski
If you are visiting Kirkham Hot springs in winter, you’ll probably pass the Whoop-Um-Up Park N’ Ski Area along your drive! This is a really great area for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and backcountry camping.
It’s easy to get a pass online, and this area is groomed and well-maintained for nice trail conditions all winter long!
10. The Inland Northwest
Berty and I consider the Inland Northwest to roughly include Eastern Washington and Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, and the northern parts of Wyoming and Utah. (But that’s just us!)
There are so many gorgeous canyons, rivers, and mountains to see in the area! If you’re looking for spectacular views without the crowds, this is the place you should be.
Read The Post: 11 Things To Do In The Inland Northwest
11. Snake River Valley Wineries
There is an area of Idaho that has a similar climate to other successful wine-growing regions in Europe.
This area is fairly new to the wine scene compared to Oregon and Washington wineries, but it’s quickly rising in popularity!
Read The Post: An Enchanting Day Around Idaho Wineries.
12. The Springs Idaho Resort
The Springs Idaho Resort is a luxurious retreat just an hour’s drive north of Boise Idaho.
It’s the perfect pit stop on the way back from adventures in the Boise National Forest, to soak your sore muscles before you head back to the city.
This place has a huge soaking pool, a steam room, and a row of incredible private pools to reserve. You won’t want a miss a trip to The Springs!
13. Backcountry Camping In The Boise National Forest
Right after visiting Kirkham Hot Springs, strap on your snowshoes and hideaway in a backcountry yurt!
There are 6 reservable yurts in the Boise National Forest, each with their own unique history, stories, and adventures nearby.
Make sure to read our guide to making the most of your Idaho yurt camping trip, and have fun!
Kirkham Hot Springs FAQs
Are Kirkham Hot Springs actually hot? Yes! Kirkham Hot Springs pool temperatures range from 120 degrees (at the source) to 95 degrees farenheit. As you get closer to the Payette River, the cooler the pool water will be.
How much does Kirkham Hot Springs cost? There is a $5.00 fee for each vehicle that parks at Kirkham Hot Springs.
Is Kirkham Hot Springs open in winter? Yes, the springs are open all year long. However, it might be a little more challenging to reach the pools in the snow. Come prepared with a 4-wheel drive vehicle to navigate the roads.
Is clothing optional at Kirkham Hot Springs? No. You must wear a swimsuit, because this place is heavily used and many families come here. Plus, the pools are viewable from the highway!
Are dogs allowed at Kirkham hot springs? Technically yes, on leash. However, we don’t recommend it, because the hot water can hurt dog’s feet and they aren’t allowed in pools. Plus, if they accidentally poop in or around the the source water, it could contaminate the area. It’s best to leave them at home!
Where do you park for Kirkham Hot Springs? You park right off the highway, outside of the gates. It’s a wide area that’s hard to miss. There will likely be cars already in the are when you arrive!
Is Kirkham Hot Springs worth visiting? Absolutely! It’s one of the most beautiful spots in Idaho. Although you can almost always find crowds, it’s still worth visiting. Come in the shoulder season (fall, spring) and during the weekdays for the fewest crowds!
Is Kirkham Hot Springs closed? No. However, Kirkham Hot springs has gone through a lot of misuse in the past decade, causing it to be intermittently closed for cleanup. The national forest department recently received a grant to improve infrastructure and help manage crowds and trash. In the next few years, expect a lot of changes and upgrades to the area, and potentially temporary closures!
Have you been to Idaho’s Kirkham Hot Springs? Tell us about your own experience here in the comments!
More Hot Springs to Explore
Want more inspiration for your trip to Idaho? Follow our Pinterest boards for tons of ideas for your next adventure!